The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a string of burglaries in three western towns in which thieves have taken firearms and other sellable objects while ransacking homes.
Sheriff Thomas Lorey said the theft of the firearms, which includes rifles and handguns, is especially worrisome. “It distresses me because we do not need guns in the hands of the wrong people,” he said.
The sheriff also said the people committing the burglaries appear to be “career criminals” and may be armed with the weapons they have stolen. As such, he is urging residents not to confront anyone who may be in or near their homes.
“The fact that they took firearms, I would urge people to exercise caution. Do not confront people; call us and give us a good description and plate number,” Lorey said. He said at least eight to 10 weapons have been stolen from homes already.
So far, the suspects have burgled homes when people were not home and have not confronted anyone. “Burglars want to avoid places that are occupied,” he said.
The sheriff’s office has recorded at least a dozen burglaries of homes in the towns of Bleecker, Ephratah and Oppenheim. The burglaries started about three weeks ago and continued through the past few days. The suspects are breaking into houses in any manner they can, and once inside they are ransacking the homes for items they can sell, Lorey said.
“The same group of people is responsible for the string of burglaries that are occurring. All of the burglaries seem to have the same items missing and same things going. They have taken anything they can resell: televisions, computers, iPods,” he said. “I suspect it is drug-related.”
While searching for items to take, the suspects are dumping out dresser drawers and cleaning out refrigerators and freezers, as people sometimes hide valuables in these places, Lorey said.
“It is haphazard. They are tearing things apart and causing a lot of property damage,” he said.
Police are monitoring pawn shops for items that may have come from the burgled homes. The weapons, however, are most likely being sold on the street, he said.
The sheriff’s office is also working with the state police, which is investigating burglaries in areas outside of Fulton County with similar characteristics.
Lorey said his department is asking residents of the three towns to report any suspicious activity to his office.
“We want to hear everything from everyone. What we are looking for is anyone who sees anything out of ordinary: strange cars driving slowly, people coming into their yards,” he said.